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Washington City

Washington City Hall is located at 102 East 2nd Street, Washington, NC 27889; phone: 252-975-9300.

Beginnings [1]

The James Bonner farm was fortuitously located at the head of navigation on the Pamlico. An Edgecombe County merchant, Aquila Sugg, purchased several lots from Bonner in the 1750s, where he built a wharf, a warehouse, and other buildings. Other merchants, including several from Bath, established a presence in the area. A community commonly called "Forks of the Tar" grew up. It survived largely of the exportation of naval stores, a commodity much in demand by the British navy.

In 1771 James Bonner, at that time a member of the General Assembly from Beaufort County, presented a petition "praying [that] a Town be erected at the head of the Pamlico" on his-property. The Lower House passed the bill, but the Upper House, preoccupied with the conflict between Tryon and the Regulators, never approved it. This made little difference to Bonner, however, who in 1775 laid off sixty lots of a half acre each, and sold them by lottery, each lot costing five British pounds. An entry in the Journal of the Council of Safety of North Carolina dated September 27, 1776, refers to the new town as Washington. This is the earliest known reference to the name of the town and supports the claim that it was the first community named after then General George Washington.

Washington played an important role in the Revolution. With Savannah, Charles Town, and Wilmington all under British control, and much of the Chesapeake Bay under blockage, Washington became a crucial supply source for the Continental Army. Thomas and John Gray Blount established warehouses near Ocracoke Island, and used the island to ship supplies to and from Washington. American privateer activity in the area was frequent and effective throughout the war. The relative shallowness of the Pamlico sound prevented the larger British ships from effectively hampering operations in the area.

  1. H. McKelden Smith and Jim Sumner, North Carolina Division of Archives and History, Washington Historic District, Beaufort County, North Carolina, nomination document, 1978, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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